Monthly Archives: March, 2017

Planet Earth Institute Announces Science Africa UnConference 2017

The Planet Earth Institute’s annual Science Africa UnConference was announced this week. The event will take place in London on the 20th July.

After a highly successful conference in 2016, the Planet Earth Institute has decided to host the Science Africa UnConference again this year. The conference will provide a platform for some of Africa’s most cutting edge scientists to talk about their work to assembly of high-profile guests drawn from academia, government, international organisations and business.

The Planet Earth Institute describes the conference as a celebration of “all those individuals, research groups, commercial organisations and academic institutions driving scientific and technological advancement in and for the continent.”
The conference programme will feature several presentations from individuals prominent in their respective fields. Last year guests were honoured by speeches from Kedest Tesfagiorgis, from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Charlotte Watts, from the Department of International Development in the UK and Dr. Geoffrey Siwo, a research scientists with IBM Africa.

Álvaro Sobrinho described the UnConference as “part of our [the Planet Earth Institute’s] ongoing work to put the spotlight firmly on the importance of science, technology and innovation as drivers of development.” More than 250 guests will be invited to join in with the celebrations this year. The participants will take part in working groups and participant-led workshops, alongside presentations and panel discussions.

Board members from the Planet Earth Institute will facilitate the day with newly elected Chairman, Lord Paul Boateng, expected to offer a speech of his own. His Lordship will likely be joined by Her Excellency Madame President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim of Mauritius. It is unclear whether Álvaro Sobrinho will have time to attend this year, due to numerous other commitments and responsibilities.

A full programme will be published by the Institute in the coming months. Those who will to participate are encouraged to contact the Institute to arrange tickets, entrance is free but spaces are limited.

Planet Earth Institute Academic Board Announced

In order to effectively manage its scholarship programmes the Planet Earth Institute (PEI) has announced the creation of an academic board. Described by the Institute as a “high-level body”, the board will manage the administration of scholarships granted by the PEI.

The main scholarship programme of the PEI is the HE Ameenah Gurib-Fakim PhD Scholarship Programme, which handed out its first tranche of scholarships to Mauritian academics last year. The fund was brought about by the work of Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, who was Chairman of the organisation at the time. By teaming up with international organisations, including the World Bank, and a team of like-minded businessmen, Dr Sobrinho was able to raise a significant amount of funding for the scholarships.

The Chairman of the Academic Board was announced in February as Professor Sir Christopher Edwards. Sir Christopher has been with the PEI for many years as a trustee, as Chairman of the Academic Board he will oversee its smooth running and advise of issues relating to medical sciences.

Alongside Sir Christopher, sever others have been appointed to the board. The distinguished board includes Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub, PEI trustee and world-leadings surgeon, Professor Madeleine Atkins, the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council in England, and Professor Lynn Frewer who will provide advise relating to food and agribusiness.

When asked about the board appointments Sir Christopher Edwards responded, “We have been very fortunate in attracting some outstanding people to help us take forward the mission of PEI in enabling the scientific independence of Africa.” He went on to say, “we are focusing on five main areas – energy, water, agri-business, blue sky science and medical science. The Academic Board has key individuals in each of these areas, and the PEI is very grateful to them for agreeing to be part of this very important project”.

Alvaro Sobrinho Steps Down After 7 Successful Years at PEI

During the African Breakfast Club meeting, held in London on February 9th, the Planet Earth Institute announced a restructuring of the board. After 7 years at the helm, investor and philanthropist, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho will step down as the Chairman of the Planet Earth Institute. In his place, Planet Earth Institute Trustee, Right Honourable Lord Paul Boateng will assume the position of Chairman.

Dr Sobrinho oversaw the growth of the Planet Earth Institute from a fledgling NGO into a pan-African organisation with links to the most prestigious international organisations and some of the largest international corporations. In particular, the Planet Earth Institute has built a relationship with the World Bank and become accredited by the United Nations Environment Programme. Partnerships with IBM, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the British Council and many more have been formed.

Today, the Institute operations programmes across the African continent, contributing the advancement of science and scientific research in numerous ways. STEP (Science Technology Enrolment Programme) has brought science to young African students and the Planet Earth Institute PhD programme is funding some of the brightest scientific minds on the continent.

As the founding Chairman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho’s has steered the Institute from its inception to its present day success. Through his careful guidance and leadership, the Institute has become a real force for scientific progress in Africa. Incoming Chairman, Lord Paul Boateng, lavished praise on his predecessor; “Dr Sobrinho has demonstrated a remarkable and continuing commitment to science in Africa, and his pioneering leadership has brought the PEI from its early stages to become a strong and stable organisation, able now to play our part in Africa’s scientific revolution.”

Dr Sobrinho descirbed leading the Institute for the last 7 years as “one of the greatest privileges” of his career. Though no longer Chairman, Dr Sobrinho will continue to work with the Planet Earth Institute as a valued member of the board.

President of Mauritius Speaks to the Governing Council of IFAD

In a keynote speech to the 40th Governing Council of the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD), President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, friend and colleague of Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, addressed the issue of women in development. Women, she argued, “underpin all of the continent’s development efforts”. She went on to suggest that if women were given scientific knowledge and appropriate tools they could make an even greater contribution.

The IFAD is part of the United Nations, set up in 1977 to fund rural development in deprived areas. The organisation has done a great deal to build and rebuild communities, particularly in the aftermath of conflict. The IFAD has focused on poverty reduction, the abolition of hunger and malnutrition and improving incomes for the rural poor. President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim used her speech to praise the organisation, especially for its work on ‘inclusive rural transformation’.

During the speech, President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim went into detail regarding the power of science and technology to drive development on the continent. Using the example of agriculture, President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim explained how science and technology can be used to make agriculture more productive, thus raising the incomes and improving the livelihoods of those who practise it.

She highlighted several good examples, including Kilimo Salama (meaning ‘Safe Agriculture’), a new insurance product available to Kenyan farmers. Kilimo Salama is an innovative financial mechanism that allows small-scale farmers to avoid terrible losses in the face of crop loss due to severe or unexpected weather conditions. Equally, online platform mFarm, created by Kenyan Jamilla Abass, allows farmers to get a fair price for their crops and the inputs they need by facilitating collective purchasing and selling.

HE President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim concluded her address by asking participants to include local people in conversations about African development. These people are very often women with extensive traditional knowledge who can provide experiences and practises that will help overcome major development challenges, including climate change.